Photo by Kim Ranjbar, [Plume Algiers' Mangodi Sabzi]

$20 and Under: Tasting the Purple, Green, & Gold

09:00 February 22, 2022
By: Kim Ranjbar

Though a measured level of Mardi Gras is expected this year, are you one of many folks out there hesitant to participate? Are you hoping for at least one more year
of house parades?

There's plenty of reasons to abstain—if the resurgence of COVID breakouts (and its Omicron variant) aren't enough, how about the shutdown/work-from-home-related, increased anxiety you now feel in large crowds? Another 12 months of therapy would go far towards shaking that particular monkey off of all our backs.

If you're just not feeling up to go to the Mardi Gras, surely you're game to eat it? Make a Carnival-long commitment to eating local foodstuffs that most closely resemble the colors we flaunt every season: devour something purple for justice, feast on a dish of green for faith, and get your fill of golden goodies for power. Granted, you could go the easy route and eat a colorful slice of king cake (something you should be doing anyhow), but isn't it more delicious to go for something more challenging? It's more difficult than you'd think.

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Taro Chantilly Cake, Wishing Town Bakery

Purple is the first and most challenging color. Going the sweet route would be the most obvious choice, like a thick, glorious slice of cake at Wishing Town Bakery. A purple-as-Prince slice of Taro Chantilly Cake with layers of sweet whipped cream will only set you back $5, so maybe you should order two? You'd regret not adding a few purple-hued dan huang su—Chinese, salty-eggyolk puff pastry—for good measure.

You can pick a peck of pickled purple cabbage at Que Rico Cuban Cafe on Magazine Street. Order the spicy side on its own for only a five-spot, or treat yourself to a roasted pork Cuban sandwich topped with maduros and that purple pickled cabbage or eat it on their vegan-version with fried yuca, sweet plantains, and mojo sauce.

Practically any eggplant dish would qualify to fill your purple quota, though most are fried and/or slathered in so much sauce, the visual cue just wouldn't be obvious. But if you're strapped, feel free to close your eyes while taking a monstrous bite of Joey K's Eggplant Napoleon. We promise, through all of the crawfish, butter, cornmeal, and Creole seasoning, you won't be able to miss that distinctive purple flavor.

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Kim Ranjbar, The Chloe's Shrimp Ravigote Salad

There's a ton of veggie-filled dishes to help you eat green, but why settle for just any old salad? For example, you might pay a little more than a pretty penny to enjoy The Chloe's eponymous starter, but will it be an entire, buttery head of Bibb lettuce filled with poached Gulf shrimp flavored with crab fat and ravigote? They also offer a winter green salad with crispy fish rillettes and purple and golden beets, a magically, Mardi Gras dish exuding all three colors at once. Here's hoping it stays on the menu.

Brussels sprouts seem to be just about everywhere, but at Bub's Burgers, you can have them fried and tossed in a sweet and spicy honey sriracha glaze. Served alongside a burger "Royale," complete with American cheese, you barely miss the ubiquitous fries.

For a sweeter taste of green, sink your teeth into the green tea cream puff filled with green tea pastry cream at Beard Papa's on Magazine Street. Or you could head down to the French Quarter and sip on a bright green boozy treat: a creamy, minty Grasshopper—the signature cocktail at Tujague's.

Probably the tastiest of the Carnival trio is gold. What pops immediately to mind is the glorious, golden yolk of a perfectly-poached egg or a basket of golden-fried chicken from any Popeyes in the state. But what about changing it up a bit with curry? Over at Plume Algiers on Teche Street, they're making "mangodi sabzi," a mildly-spiced golden curry with fried yellow lentil fritters, broken curds, and sprouts. Soap it up with a pile of basmati rice or a couple of orders of roti.

Crispy French fries from the golden arches will fit the bill, but the ones you get at Cafe Degas with an order of steamed mussels far surpass the fast-food giant's signature side. It's highly advisable to eat those golden, crispy beauties with a bowl of mussels, but you can just get a pile of their fresh-from-the-fryer fries with a side of house-made aioli. That way, you can afford to slurp the pale-yellow crème anglaise sauce from their floating isle meringue dessert.

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